And changes to School Construction Committee made public
East Greenwich Town Council voted 4-0 Thursday night to approve the stage 2 plan of the $150 million school construction project. Councilmember Mike Donegan was absent.
“I’m optimistic and excited that the project we are doing, even if it is changed some during the engineering and architectural process, will meet the priority needs of our district,” said Town Council President Mark Schwager. He said that the project will address the overcrowding at the elementary schools and “make significant improvements at the high school.”
With the council and School Committee now both having voted in favor of the stage 2 application before the RIDE deadline of Feb. 15, the town maintains its eligibility for up to 20 percent in bonus state reimbursement money on top of the guaranteed 35 percent.
Councilmember Renu Engleheart mentioned being “very concerned about the cost” after Councilmember Mike Zarrella said, “I don’t think this project is going to come in budget.”
While Councilmember Caryn Corenthal agreed that “we’re probably not going to get everything we want,” she said that the end result will “certainly be an improvement.”
This vote of approval comes just 10 days after the council voted down the same proposal after learning about Supt. Brian Ricca’s “Request for Declaratory Order” letter to the Dept. of Education (RIDE) asking the state to weigh in on who has “ultimate control’ over the project.
At a combined Town Council and School Committee meeting on Monday night, Town Council present Mark Schwager and School Committee Chair Alyson Powell made a joint statement stating that both bodies had agreed on the arrangement of oversight of the project.
The details were made public as part of next Monday’s Town Council meeting agenda. To view all of the changes made, click HERE.
One change in the ordinance draft states that the town manager and superintendent will co-chair the School Construction Committee (SCC), with the body now providing “input and oversight for the Town Council and School Committee relative to the Project.”
Another change to the ordinance states: “The SCC, in coordination with the Town Solicitor, shall negotiate any contract to be entered into by the Town and said firm(s) subject to approval of the Town Council, provided, however, that such contracts shall account for established School Committee policies regarding school access, educational concerns, and other such matters.”
Also, the makeup of the body was adapted to include the chair of the School Committee and the Town Council president. The change means that two School Committee and Town Council members will sit on the SCC instead of two council members and one from schools, as previously stipulated. Additionally, that School Committee member is to be selected by the School Committee, not the Town Council, as laid out in the original ordinance.
This altered ordinance will be part of the public hearing portion of the Town Council’s next meeting at Town Hall on Monday, Feb. 12, at 7 p.m. The full agenda of that meeting can be found HERE.
Andrew Belfry covers EG schools and police for EG News. He lives in town with his wife and two children. Send him comments and tips at [email protected].